#DavidJames – The not so perfect role model
Human nature is naïve. Going through the pages of history, one can say that the human race has become programmed to follow a leader. We have become habituated of being ruled by someone, to follow someone either due to their fear or simply because we have believed in their idea of liberation. But this is 21st century, there are no conquerors aiming to expand their territories or have a dream to rule the world, yet the tendency to follow someone hasn’t been wiped out. The only difference being, monarchs have been replaced by Celebrities, Sportspersons, K-Pop stars and Actors. People follow these famous personalities blindly, even giving them a god-like status.
Footballers too are worshipped as gods often choosing to neglect the fact that these footballers commit mistakes just like everyone else. We fail to comprehend that they are humans just like us, albeit with more privileges. Fans idolize these players because the media paints an enchanting picture of their lives. But in reality no one is perfect. David James is an apt example to support this argument. Divorce, extravagant affairs and Bankruptcy are just a few of the many black spots in David James’ career. His career is a testimony for the above predicament that aggrandizing them as gods is incorrect.
He may not be able to make it to the league of Daemons but he surely can make it to the Congress of Premier League greats. He was never the best, he made several blunders which earned him the nickname of ‘Calamity James’ but these jabs didn’t stop him to do what he loved, that was to ardently keep on playing the game. Let’s roll back in time to see the misadventures and victories of his football life.
Where it all began…
David James grew up supporting Luton Town in his early teenage days. An average child in studies, James knew very early that football might be his only chance of making it big in life and worked hard to make himself recognized among the circuit of scouts who recruited young boys to club academies. In 1986, the burly 16 year old joined Luton’s local rivals Watford. There are players who spend their entire careers in trying to win a trophy that they can show off to the rest of the world yet their efforts end up in disappointment. Then there is David James who starred in Watford’s triumphant FA Youth Cup campaign in 1988.
James’ continuous uprising earned him a second division debut came on 25th August 1990 against Millwall in an off-putting 2-1 defeat. The departure of Tony Coton meant James would establish himself as an undisputable number one between the sticks. The 20-year-old made full use of the opportunity, earning the club’s Player of the Season award for his valiant contributions that saved Hornets from succumbing to relegation. Another strong performance in the 1991-92 season saw David become a hot property in the market with Red hot Liverpool signing him for £1.25 million in 1992.
The Englishman made his Premier League debut for the Reds on 16th August 1992 in a 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest. James failed to replicate the form that merited his transfer to Liverpool, conceding 34 goals in 29 league games in his first season. His impression as a promising English goalkeeper soon started to fade as substandard performances in his second season saw him lose his starting spot to Bruce Grobbelaar. However, he was recalled to the team after notable performances in the FA Cup.
Despite earning the nickname of ‘Calamity James’ due to his frequent blunders, James was smart enough to build on the confidence he gained from being recalled to the team and marched with Liverpool to a League Cup victory in 1994-95 season defeating Bolton Wanderers in the final.
Another strong season from the Reds helped James collect runners up medal in the 1996 FA Cup. The quartet of David, Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and Jaime Redknapp were nicknamed the ‘Spice Boys’ for their overindulgence in partying and leisure. ‘Calamity James’ could have trended on Twitter if Twitter existed back in those days. The arrival of Brad Friedel in 1997 was seen as an indication of faith being lost in James. James wasn’t a bad player at all, he had garnered years of experience of being a Top-Flight keeper but consistency was his only foe. In June 1999, James bid farewell to a seven year reasonable Liverpool career joining Aston Villa for £1.8 million.
His first season with the Villians saw him bring his career back on track as James remodeled himself into a solid, dedicated keeper as his performances were key to Villa’s all round rise: finishing sixth in the league, FA Cup runners-up and semifinalists in the League Cup. James will vividly be remembered for his outstanding shot-stopping skills in the FA Cup semi-final penalty shootout against Bolton which propelled Villa to the final. The second year wasn’t extra-ordinary for the 30-year-old; he kept his position in the team and sprung with a few decisive performances from time to time. After two years with the Claret and Blue, James switched to West Ham United for a fee of £3.1 million in 2001 seeking greener pastures.
His Hammers debut came late in November 2001, due to an injury which kept him out of the game for three months. The debut was anything but memorable as West Ham lost 1-0 to local rivals Tottenham Hotspur. The 2002-03 season saw the Hammers get relegated to the Championship. Now while players like Paolo Di Canio, Joe Cole and Glen Johnson left due to personal motives of playing in the Top Flight, James decided to stay at West Ham to help them regain their Premiership status. However, an interest from Manchester City was too flattering to decline with the Citizens signing him in January 2004 as a replacement for the retired legend David Seaman.
David James had an awful start to his Manchester City career as the team managed to win only 4 games out of the 17 he played in. However, his penalty-saving skills improved drastically, saving two decisive penalties in games against Leicester and Wolves. James later revealed that studying sports psychology helped him excel in decision making in penalty shoot-outs.
Before the Sheikh Mansour era qualifying for Europe was a rarity for City. In 2004-5 season, on the final matchday, a win for the Citizens would propel them above Middlesbrough and in turn ensure Europe qualification. Man City manager made a peculiar tactical tweak bringing on substitute keeper Nicky Weaver in goal and pushing David James in the attack. It was a smart move of sending the 6 feet 4 inch player in the attack, the move almost proved to be a masterstroke with City being awarded in the penalty in injury time. However, a Mark Schwarzer penalty save meant City missed their chance for UEFA Cup qualification as the game ended 1-1.
While James was doing alright on the field, a storm wreaked havoc in his personal life. Tensions between James and his wife reached to a point of no return eventually leading to divorce. James admitted that he needed be closer to his kids who lived in London and also requested Manchester City to consider his request. In August 2006, the Citizens accepted Portsmouth’s £1.2 million bid.
His Portsmouth career was off to a flier as the 36 year old seemingly became ‘Mr.Dependable’. On 22nd April 2007, James broke the record that he wouldn’t have ever dreamt of after being jeered as ‘Calamity James’ for most parts of his career, registering 142 League clean sheets breaking Seaman’s record of 141. The achievement allowed him to chip away with Portsmouth’s Player of the year as well. In many ways the stint at Fratton Park was largely familiar for the records that had been etched to his name. The Englishman has the most league appearances for any keeper but also has the disappointing record of conceding most goals in that spell. On 30 January 2009, David became the third player to clock 500 appearances in the Premier League, after Gary Speed and Ryan Giggs.
If you think that James’ Portsmouth career has reached the threshold of productivity according to his standards, then you are in for another beano. Under the tutelage of Harry Redknapp, the Pompey clinched the FA Cup in 2008, a second major trophy in James’ career. In 2009, James surpassed Speed’s 536 appearances record. Another FA Cup victory looked visible when Portsmouth beat Spurs 2-0 in the semi-final under the captaincy of James. However, the end to the 2009 season was bitter as the Pompey lost the final to Chelsea. After 4 record laden years at the Fratton Park, James left as a free agent after failing to commit to a new contract.
At the age of 40, he signed for Championship side Bristol City for two major reasons: The perk of being in the radar of for England team selection along with the motivation to stay close to the family home in Devon. James played his 900th club game in the Severnside Derby in 2012 and fans showered enormous praise and respect for his feat. After two par seasons with Bristol, he left as a free agent. Then came a short spell at Bournemouth in 2012, but James and Cherries terminated the contract with mutual consent after just six months of signing.
David James was on the last legs of his career as he signed for IBV Vestmannaeyjar of the Icelandic league as a player/manager in 2013. It was later discovered that James wasn’t being paid any high wages and was doing this for gaining some managerial experience. James left Iceland at the end of the season to mainly focus on coaching.
In May 2014, David was declared bankrupt. It seemed unconceivable that a player of his stature would fall to debt just a few years on. Most of his fortune is believed to have been consumed by braggart spending. Despite earning an estimated £20m from his football career, owning several properties and having a lucrative contract modelling for Armani, James’ debts had built up since his divorce.
In 2014, ISL launched their inaugural season and for marketing purposes ISL teams lured some of the biggest names who once shined in Europe. The likes of Alessandro Del Piero, Nicolas Anelka signed for ISL teams as marquee player. David James joined Sachin Tendulkar’s co-owned Kerala Blasters as a player coach. Under James’ leadership, Kerala blasters finished as a runner up in the first season. James announced his playing retirement. It looked like a fitting end for a personality like James; he was able to transmit his idea and love of football to a different continent where football is an emerging sport.
What was David James footballer like…
David James was considered as one of the brightest English prospects while he honed his skills at Watford. He was adjudged as the best rising keepers in England and the Liverpool transfer meant he was moving in the right direction. However, as a shot-stopper he was never the cleanest when it came to making saves. He was prone to make mistakes particularly because of his approach and antics. He often got distracted during the game resulting in costly errors. James blamed video games as the reason for his lapses in concentration.
Nevertheless, one must not forget his ability to collect the ball in air and his breath-taking penalty saving skills. James started studying Sport psychology to understand a player’s mindset before taking the penalty, this alone helped him leaps and bounds to become one of the best in business when it came to saving penalties. In a very unique way, his 6 feet 4 inch frame could have been used in the dying moments to increase the aerial attack threat. James would often be seen running to the opposition penalty box during corners in the last moments of a game. All in all, despite the blunders, he managed to remain a top keeper all these years due to his brilliance in other areas.
What are the moments we remember David James for…
FA Youth Cup win
The FA Youth Cups are a test which determines whether the academy players are able to handle the pressure of a knock-out competition, the adrenaline rush and the racing heartbeats. David James was part of Watford team that clinched the 1988-89 FA Youth Cup defeating Manchester City 2-1 on aggregate. The performances alerted the football world that a certain English keeper is emerging as a mercurial talent.
From number one to number nine
In 2004-05 season, Manchester City needed a win on the final matchday to qualify for UEFA Cup at the expense of their opponents Middlesbrough. With the game tied at 1-1, City boss Stuart Pearce brought on substitute keeper Nicky Weaver in goal and instructed David James to play in the attack as a striker. He did create a few chances and kept the Boro defenders on their toes. However, the tweak didn’t make much of a difference as the game ended 1-1 as City failed to convert an injury-time penalty.
Mr. Clean Sheets
David James’ fortunes took a turn for good as he managed to get quite a few records to his name, one of which was to break David Seaman’s record of 141 clean sheets. In a goalless draw against Aston Villa in April 2007, James broke Seaman’s record by registering his 142nd clean sheet. James went onto keep a total of 169 clean sheets in the Top-Flight.
Another record he broke during his days at Fratton Park was to join the league of players to make more than 500 league appearances. He played his 500th league game Manchester United in 2008. He went onto make a total of 572 Premier League appearances. James also holds the record for most Top flight appearances as a goalkeeper, just describing the longevity of his career.
FA Cup victory
From winning the FA Youth Cup in 1989 to winning the FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008, it seemed life had completed one full circle for James. Portsmouth reached the final to clash against Cardiff City with James keeping 4 clean sheets enroute to the final. With James in goal, Portsmouth breezed past tough opponents like the Red Devils and Ipswich Town away from home.
In the final, James made a crucial block early in the game to deny Cardiff the lead. James continued to be active in the goal, forbidding any ball past the goal line. Eventually, Portsmouth attackers did their job as they clinched the FA Cup title.
Where is David James now
While David James enjoyed Kerala’s delicacies on the Banana leaf, he had already slipped into the banana skin of bankruptcy. After the 2014 ISL season, David tasked himself with rebuilding his life. He found plenty of work in TV sector often appearing as a pundit and doing the analysis bit on BT Sport, Sky Sports and the BBC. James’s reputation of being down to earth and sensitive to causes meant that whatever his bank balance, his goodwill was intact.
James returned to coaching Kerala Blasters in the 2017-18 season after the team was off to a horrible start and David was tasked to rebuild the team. The team did improve after the Englishman’s intervention but could manage a sixth place finish. The 2018-19 season included a dismal run of 11 winless games resulting in James’ sacking. At this moment he continues to put on a suit and appear in front of the camera as a pundit.
How other premier league professionals view David James…
Stan Collymore, James’s controversial teammate at Liverpool, wrote in his autobiography: “If he [James] had a new car and he pranged it, he would just go and buy a new car — so there were five cars parked in the drive. If he bought a new pair of shoes and he scuffed them, he wouldn’t clean them. He would just chuck them in the spare room and buy a new pair. Too much disposable income, I suppose. Too easy just to bin stuff. Too easy to spend money like you are going to be earning that kind of money.
Stan Collymore: “He can come across as the thickest, dumbest bloke on the planet, but you only need to listen to him speak in more rational moments to realise that he is a very bright bloke.”
Football journalist Daniel Taylor describing James’ six minute appearance as a striker for Manchester City: “It was, to put it mildly, the most eccentric of finales. There were still two minutes of normal time remaining, plus five for stoppages, when [manager] Stuart Pearce, adopting a form of leadership that would have been wacky even by Brian Clough’s standards, had the brainwave of replacing a midfielder, Claudio Reyna, with his reserve goalkeeper, Nicky Weaver, and ordering David James to play as a centre-forward. Amazingly the disorder almost paid off. With James charging around like a headless ostrich, his cameo role incorporating a hilarious air-shot and at least two horrendously late but probably well-meant chops at Doriva’s legs, the hitherto wretched referee Rob Styles decreed that Joey Barton’s centre had flicked off Franck Queudrue’s hand for a penalty.”
What David James says about David James
“People think you must be crackers if you’ve got a psychologist but psychology is part of the building bricks to make a top athlete.”
“I’m the star of the show. I should have a decent haircut.”
“It’s not nice going into the supermarket and the woman at the till is thinking: ‘Dodgy keeper’.”
David James Trivia
At the height of his Liverpool career, James also earned a spare bit of cash modelling for fashion brand Armani. The company’s founder Giorgio Armani once labelled James as “an extraordinary looking man”.
In addition to being an art connoisseur, James has also been a newspaper columnist, as well as an illustrator on the children’s book ‘Harry’s Magic Pockets: The Circus’.
He set up the David James Foundation off the back of a 2005 trip to Malawi, which helped maize farmers produce crops more efficiently, as well as teach youngsters the necessary skills to help get them work.
He also auctioned one of his better-known paintings for the Bobby Moore cancer research fund, in the memory of England’s 1966 World Cup winning captain.
he is also a global ambassador for the Special Olympics, and took part in a charity version of Great British Bake Off for Sport Relief.
James was recognized for his efforts in 2012 when he was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list for his services to football and charity.
David James stats , what you can find on Wiki ( and other sites )…
|Teams||Season||Age||Played||Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|West Ham United||2002-2003||31||38||38||3420||0||0||0||0|
|West Ham United||2001-2002||30||26||26||2340||0||0||0||0|
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